Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad apparently isn't as dead as everyone thought.
When HP killed its tablet earlier this month, slashing the price by hundreds of dollars in a bid to clear inventory, a funny thing happened: Thousands of people rushed to stores and online to snatch up a high-end device at a steal. That was a startling reversal from the anemic sales that marked the first six weeks of the TouchPad's existence-and, evidently, enough for HP to consider producing another batch.
"Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand," Mark Budgell, an HP spokesperson, wrote in a corporate blog posting Aug. 30. "We don't know exactly when these units will be available or how many we'll get, and we can't promise we'll have enough for everyone."
The tablets will be available sometime in the next few weeks, although Budgell declined to offer any information on an exact release date or pricing. HP still intends to shut down development and production of webOS devices, which include the company's smartphone line in addition to the TouchPad.
The first weekend after HP announced it would kill the TouchPad, Best Buy and other retailers slashed the price of the 16GB tablet from $399 to $99, and the 32GB edition from $499 to $149. That came on top of the $100 discount instituted by HP at the beginning of August, which drove the sticker price for the TouchPad down from $499 and $599, respectively, for the 16GB and 32GB models. HP's own Website also lowered the entry price to $99.
That's far below HP's estimated cost for building each TouchPad, meaning that, if the company chooses to sell the latest run of tablets at the same price point, it will lose a significant amount of money.
HP had previously expressed high hopes for webOS, which it inherited as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in 2010. HP CEO Leo Apotheker had made no secret of his plans to eventually license the operating system to other manufacturers, suggesting in a March 9 Bloomberg report that such a move would help create a "massive platform." That month, the company announced it would install webOS on all desktop and notebook computers in 2012.
Now it seems those plans are dashed, especially since HP plans on spinning off its PC manufacturing division in addition to killing the tablet and smartphones. According to an Aug. 30 Reuters report, Todd Bradley, head of HP's Personal Systems Group, said he intends to lead the PC division if it becomes a separate enterprise. Meanwhile, HP's new strategy involves repositioning itself as a seller of software and services, which will place it in direct competition with the likes of Oracle and SAP, the latter Apotheker's former company.
In the meantime, though, the TouchPad will apparently have one last, zombie-style market run before it's gone for good.